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U.S., Canada harden positions on softwood

OTTAWA, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Washington says its dispute with Ottawa over imports of Canadian softwood can only be settled by negotiation.

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said that, despite a North American Free Trade Agreement ruling this month that U.S. duties of 21 percent on imported Canadian softwood were illegal, his government would keep imposing the duties, worth about $100 million per month, the CBC reported Thursday.

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Wilkins' comments came within hours of Ottawa's decision to cancel next week's talks with U.S. officials about the 5-year-old trade dispute, a cancellation prompted by the U.S. rejection of the NAFTA panel's ruling.

Washington says provincial governments effectively subsidize Canadian firms by charging cut-rate fees to harvest on government land. Ottawa recently suggested that U.S. duties be replaced by a Canadian export tax, which would be removed when Canadian provinces brought in free-market oriented forestry management regimes.

Canada exports about $10 billion of softwood to the United States yearly.

U.S. building companies support Ottawa's position; U.S. forestry companies support Washington's position.

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